At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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It takes a village: David 'Gordo' SanchezSanta Paula Times, December 6th
Having a reputation as one of the fastest lemon pickers in Ventura County, teenager Chavelo Sanchez taught himself how to play 12-string guitar to such a degree that he, along with friends Lucio Magdaleno, Jesus Renteria, Jesus Valenzuela and good...Read more
West Seattle holidays: New details for Tool Library 'Festivus' partyWest Seattle Blog (blog), December 5th
have a Festivus Pole, to which you can affix your airing of grievances. Also near the Festivus Pole we will have several opportunities for “feats of strength.” • Music provided by wide-ranging talents of singer and songwriter Marty Doros on the 12...Read more
Small bear spotted in Stuart Road/Michigan Avenue areaCleveland Daily Banner, December 5th
After further investigation, Gay noticed a Movado wrist watch, a Bulova wrist watch, a Taylor 12-string guitar, a Husqvarna backpack leaf blower, a Wii gaming console and a Lightning McQueen child's bicycle missing. The missing items were valued at $6,300...Read more
Mac McDonald: Fun with fundraising during the holidaysMonterey County Herald, December 3rd
Perhaps falling in that last category is Lisa Nemzo, who is an accomplished songwriter, but may be best known for her show-stopping 12-string guitar solos. She has released eight CDs of her music, written more than 400 songs, won awards for several of ...Read more
music -- Artists in Action: Musician, George WilsonGlens Falls Post-Star, December 2nd
Another character George visits in concert is Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Leadbelly), the source of some of America's best-loved folk songs ((Midnight Special, House of the Rising Son, In the Pines) and "King of the 12-string guitar." George has ...Read more
Brad Hoyt's instrument pairs harp, guitarMuncie Star Press, November 27th
Playing it produces music reminiscent of the Celtic harp, the harpsichord, a 12-string guitar and, of course, a Brazilian folk guitar, he added. “What it really sounds like is a Brazilian folk guitar,” he emphasized. The instrument is keeping him busy...Read more
Arts Council sponsors Talent NightJefferson Post, November 21st
From the delicate to the danceable this well-seasoned and rare ensemble serves up a gourmet performance of lush strings, flavored by Connie Woolard on hammer dulcimer, Rhonda Lorence on violin and Elaine Gray on 12-string guitar. The strings are ...Read more
Milwaukee's Willie Porter brings his songs, guitar chops back to The ArkThe Ann Arbor News - MLive.com, November 18th
Porter's acoustic guitar skills have drawn comparisons with those of Leo Kottke, who drew the young Porter into music the first time he heard the "6 & 12 String Guitar" album. Porter is currently in his Milwaukee studio working on a new album, “Human ...Read more